All I Want For Christmas Is An Arm ...?

It's often hard to understand, feel, see or even believe things unless they're happening to you? I know up until my own illness with M.E, from the moment I got up in the morning everything from grooming to breakfast to getting to work was all done on automatic, without thought, taken for granted, And then M.E struck and with the primary symptom being exhaustion there were days where I barely had enough energy to shuffle to the edge of the bed and that was it, all energy and breath were spent, it was and still is an extremely tough lesson to learn and brings truth to the saying "You never know what you have until it's gone" Energy and breath are a pretty big deal when you're trying to live? 

But what if there was something you never had in the first place?......

It was while perusing Twitter that I stumbled upon two individuals, Tanya Cattran  and Fraser Mcewan both with the same dream & goal of raising £10.000 to allow them a  Hero-Arm . For those of you like me old enough to remember 70's Tv shows  Six Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman? It looks as exciting as it sounds. 

Tanya from Devon and a mother of two children was born without a lower right arm that  stops just below the elbow, she is  struggling to get funding and has only been able to raise 10% £1.077 to date and says that although she's had several Prosthetics since she was little, they are more like medieval torture contraptions that hinder her rather than help. "It's just a heavy lump of plastic with a hand on the end that's stuck in one position and can't actually do anything, it's just for cosmetic purposes but it doesn't look real and it's poorly fitted and I have to take it off to actually complete any task"  Listening to Tanya I was interested to find out what difference a Hero-Arm would make to her life, and I felt and heard loud and clear her longing to have what myself and I'm sure many of you take for granted....an arm?

"The hand on the Hero-Arm moves all it's fingers so you could literally pick something up as small as a berry without bursting it, I would be able to hold a knife and fork at the same time, to butter some bread, I'd be able to make a sandwich without having to shove my stump into it to hold it down while trying to butter it, I'd be able to get dishes in and out of the oven and carry  two plates to the table at once, but most importantly i'd be able to hold both of my children's hands at the same time. 
At the moment they argue over who's going to hold my hand and it breaks my heart that when we cross the road I can only hold one of theirs. I'd love to be able to plait my daughters hair, style my own, put tights on unaided, do up zips and shoelaces, ride a bike, oh the life changing possibilities are endless, sometimes I get scared to dream incase it never happens, but we have to believe don't we?  We have to hold on to hope? "

Hope is something Fraser Mcewan from North Lanarkshire shares because he too was born with a right arm only to the elbow and he echoes Tanyas frustrations at the prosthetic he has "It's a heavy ugly plastic thing that doesn't look real, it looks like it's fallen off a shop window mannequin and as far as help and practicality go it does absolutely nothing, it's easier not to wear it to be honest. The Hero-Arm is super lightweight and will make daily tasks so much easier, simple things to most, like opening and closing doors? And as a young grandad I want to be able to hold my grandson in a way that I couldn't with my own children. It would mean the world to be able to do that"

Although life has been tough for Fraser who used to be a postman until he was medically retired in 2011, he has tried to not let his disability hold him back and to still think of others, in 2008 he walked the West Highland Way for YorkHill Hospitals cleft lip and palate unit and in 2010 he made it to the top of  Kilimanjaro  to raise money for St Andrews Hospice, he also walked the Great Glen Way for Cancer Research, but unfortunately he hasn't been as successful in getting the funds he needs for his own life changing dream. Fraser and his prosthetic consultant had been hopeful  the Hero-Arm would be funded by NHS Scotland but all hope was dashed when it was knocked back due to the high cost, leaving him back to square one of trying to raise the amount himself.  
As of 2020 the Open Bionics site states "The Hero Arm is only available privately at the moment. We’ve been working closely with the NHS, as we’re really keen to enable our customers to get Hero arms for free through the NHS and we’re preparing for a second trial of the Hero arm. The NHS has a lot to consider when looking at new devices and decisions can take a long time but they are being very supportive towards our work. Please do mention to your NHS prosthetist that you are interested, however if you would like one immediately we would have to refer you to one of our private partner clinics"

As I was writing this piece and reading it back I slipped my hand into a bag of Chocolate Lime boiled sweets at the side of me and began to unwrap one and I suddenly  realised how awkward it would be with only one arm ? I started to work out ways I'd have to do it, hold one end in my mouth maybe? And then with each task I carried out over the day the magnitude of trying to do anything with ease dawned on me: Making a coffee? Changing the water filter in the jug? Eating Beans On Toast with a knife and Fork and grating cheese over it ? Although I didn't have to face the reality for real I certainly felt the frustration for those few minutes. Tanya and Fraser like many, have to face that frustration every single day with everything they do, coping isn't the same as accepting, and they shouldn't have to when there's a solution out there that will change their lives. While £10.000 is alot of money I'm sure you'll agree it's still doable?  I've already made a little donation to both and I hope you will join me in helping them to achieve their dream and change their lives, even £1 is £1 closer and you could make that difference. If you could share their story that will also be a big help ? 
While we're all bombarded with Christmas TV Ads tempting us with Playstations and designer perfumes it seems to pale into insignificance when all someone wants is and arm?  If you'd like to help them achieve their dream,? Please head over to their pages:  

                                                    Tanya- Just Giving Page
                                                    Fraser- Just Giving Page                                               

                                                      Til Next Time, Stay Blessed
                                                                Back Before Elvis
                                                             
       

Frasers 2nd photo by:Stuart Vance/Wishaw Press
 

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